The saga of cold fusion went flying off in new direction last week when a Florida law firm sent out a press release saying that: 1. Rossi’s 1-megawatt nuclear reactor test was a resounding success; and 2. that Rossi is suing its U.S. licensee, Industrial Heat down in North Carolina. The suit charges Thomas Darden, the CEO of Cherokee Investment Partners with a breach of contract for failure pay $89 million owed Rossi at the completion of the recent reactor test. It also charges that Darden attempted to misappropriate proprietary information that had been licensed to Industrial Heat and then portray the secrets of Rossi’s reactor as his own invention. Darden and his companies, of course, deny the charges and are sure he will be vindicated by the courts.
For those coming late to this story, a quick recap is in order. About ten years ago an Italian entrepreneur, Andrea Rossi, building on work done by Italian scientists, developed a way to produce commercial amounts of heat utilizing low energy nuclear reactions (LENR). Prior to Rossi, LENR had primarily been a laboratory phenomenon. Ross first announced and then publically demonstrated his technology in 2011. The announcement was generally ignored by the press as at the time as cold fusion, the original name for LENR, was believed to have been proved not to exist some 20 years before.
Following the demonstrations of the technology, Rossi was approached by Thomas Darden of Cherokee Investment Partners in North Carolina who offered to license Rossi’s technology. An agreement was signed giving Darden and its newly established subsidiary, Industrial Heat, the right to build and sell reactors based on Rossi’s technology in the US, Latin America, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. In return for the license, Rossi received $1.5 million upon signing, $10 million after a verified 24-hour test, and finally $89 million after the completion of a 350-day test of the technology. This last test was completed on February 19th of this year.
We now know that a year or so ago relations between Darden and Rossi began to go sour. The reason for this falling out is in dispute. Rossi says that Darden never intended to pay him the $89 million for the license and only wanted the secrets of the technology. Rossi’s lawsuit and accompanying press release says that 350-day test of the 1 megawatt reactor produced 50 or 60 times more energy than consumed during the test – ten times more than what was needed to trigger the $89 million payment under the terms of the contract which has now been made public. The suit also charges that Darden and his company, Industrial Heat, are claiming that they co-invented the technology that Rossi has been working on for over a decade, and passed on to them as part of the licensing agreement. The suit further claims that they are attempting to patent it and share it with other firms developing LENR in which they have invested.
Rossi’s press release and accompanying law suit prompted an exchange of accusations between Industrial Heat and Rossi. Industrial Heat, or more likely their Washington PR firm, immediately released a statement denying Rossi’s accusations and said that after three years they have been unable to verify that Rossi’s technology worked implying that this is the reason for non-payment of the $89 million. To many observers this is a strange claim as Industrial Heat has said many times in the last three years that they were satisfied with Rossi’s technology before they made the first $11.5 million payment.
Following the first payments, Rossi passed on his proprietary information to Industrial Heat, trained their staff in preparing the fuel and used an Industrial Heat built reactor for a highly successful validation test. Industrial Heat employees were present during the 350-day test and the company approved the individual who verified the test and wrote the report. It seems rather late to now be claiming that the technology does not work.
Rossi responded to Industrial Heat’s assertion with derision, that after three years of working together in a partnership they could not make his technology work. He says he has prepared 18 volumes documenting Industrial Heat’s involvement with the development of his technology and that these will be released during the trial. In the meantime, he says we should expect the final report of the 350-day reactor test to be released soon.
Needless to say, Rossi’s large fan-base on the blogosphere is up in arms with most seeming to support Rossi’s version of events and that Darden and Industrial Heat are trying to steal intellectual property that could turn out to be worth trillions. Many believe that Rossi’s, or similar LENR technologies, is the answer to global warming and are upset that a dispute with a venture capitalist over money is going to delay commercial introduction of LENR.
It should be noted that for some time now Rossi has been claiming he has developed a new and much better LENR system for producing energy and is planning to start marketing his new style reactors, perhaps as early as this year. Some are suggesting that this development is Darden’s motivation for breaking his contract with Rossi as the technology used in the recently completed test already is obsolete. We have not yet heard Darden’s side of the argument, except for an assertion of innocence and the claim that they could not make the technology work. Industrial Heat clearly will have to explain the basis for this assertion as they have been deeply involved in several successful tests.
Any additional insight into rights and wrongs in this matter will have to wait. Whether this suit or the forthcoming report on the 350-day test draws the attention of the mass media is as yet unknown. The only thing we can be sure of is that more and more carbon is being poured into the air each year; the climate continues to deteriorate; the seas continue to rise; and that possibly the best hope for a solution seems to be mired in a lengthy court case.